I just realized that I left out the defensive line when I did the units review a couple of weeks ago – so let’s do that now.

Here are the two-deep defensive line listings from the YSU game in last year’s opener and then the final game against Miami.

Notes 17 DL YSU

Notes 17 DL Miami.png








Here you can see that we didn’t go through too many changes over the course of the 12 week season; Hendricks and Roy stayed at DE and NT respectively but there was a slight shake up with early starters Camp  being sat down for Watts and Edwards  at the other DE spot giving up the starter’s position to James Folston.

Not that it mattered really because of all the units on the field on both sides of the ball the DL is one where you see the most substitutions week to week and in-game.  Being sat down really just meant they were in a continual rotation and situational packages. We’ll see that again this year.

How did this unit do in 2017? Well, there are two sides to that story. Against the rush we did rather well limiting our opponents to 142 ypg (4.2 ypc) for 41st nationally. Can’t beat that for the suspect way the rest of the defense played. But what really shone for the DL was the work they did against Miami who had been averaging 160 yards on the ground and we held them to less than two yards per carry (1.95) with only 45 yards on 23 rushes. Excellent work there and it really helped win that game for us.

So the rushing defense was pretty stout.  What about the all-important pressure on the QB and DL penetration (however slight) that Pat Narduzzi’s defense demands?

Sadly that was another story altogether.  Last season we did the following in those areas:

Sacks Made: 74th nationally with 23 and Tackles For Loss (TFL) Made: 101st nationally with only 56.  That is mostly due to the DL unable to get into the opponent’s’ backfield on any consistent basis.

Another stat that isn’t based solely on the DL but in which they have a big part in is the Opponent’s Passing Efficiency were our defense came in at 88th at 136.3.  That is pretty high and points to the opposing QBs having time to set up, choose, throw and complete passes and is borne out with the ridiculous yards per completion rate we gave up of 14.1.

Again – that isn’t all on the DL’s shoulders but our almost complete lack of a pass rush helps allow that to happen.

So what changes are we seeing from ’17 to this season along the line?  Well, not a whole lot actually as the DL was rather young last season.  The only senior we had was Allan Edwards and he was pretty ineffectual (13 tackles and one TFL) so no big loss there.

Kam Carter, who quite honestly in my opinion never should have been pursued to come to Pitt given his track record at other schools and his highly publicized and nationally televised craptastic attitude is gone also. Again, he did almost nothing for us last season (9 games with 8 tackles and 1.5 TFLs) so his loss isn’t even a blip on the concern radar.

Returning we will play SR Dewayne Hendrix at right DE again with SR Shane (“The Dozer”) Roy next to him at DT.  Lest you think “Dozer” is given to have “Bull” in front of it that is wrong.  He’s “Dozer” because it looked like he was napping half the time he was out there.

Kidding aside, I truly hope we get some other, younger and better player in there to take his place. The staff has been mentioning 6’3″/290 rsSO Rashad Wheeler a bunch this spring and between him and 6’2″/310 rsFR Jaylen Twyman maybe we can get a better a push up the middle that we sorely lacked last year.

At the other DE spot we’ll probably see rsSO Rashad Weaver who played in all 12 games and was one of the more productive defenders with 28 tackles, 6.0 TFLs and 3.0 sacks (3rd on the team in this category).

All of Pat Narduzzi’s defensive line recruits to date have been 2* and 3* kids with the exception of Amir Watts who was a 4* in the 2016 class.  I believe his getting Dewayne Hendricks in as a transfer has been a break-even proposition – he’s done nothing special in his time at Pitt and I’m not expecting a whole lot from him this season either.  But defensive lines can do well without any individual stars (Weaver is about the best shot for stardom IMO) so they can produce and help the rest of the defense this season with a few starter changes and some of the younger kids really stepping up and playing above expectations.

Weaver, Camp, Watts, and I think Twyman have high potentials and are candidates for rising above and we need them to because if we replicate the almost no-pressure on QBs that we had last year our DBs are going to have their hands full again and that isn’t a good thing as we have seen.

I’m not expecting any of the class of 2018 recruits to have much impact for their true freshman years but you never know. However, like the OL and LBs, the DL players usually take a year or two to find their stride and get comfortable enough to really impact opponent’s offenses.

My overview? I think this unit will improve from last year and if they can balance out talent across the line we may see them have a more positive impact on the defense.  I’m still thinking the LBs are the best defensive unit we’ll field but the DL – with some changes – could make us sit up and take notice.


25 thoughts on “POV’s Take: Pre-Spring Drills – Defensive Line

  1. Once again, the contrarian.
    I say our cornerbacks – Dane Jackson and whoever else – will be the shining star of the defense.
    By default.
    Defensive line cannot generate a rush.
    Linebackers – too slow.
    Safeties – meh.


  2. We saw moments of success from most of these guys last year. I think they will be more consistently good this year. It is all about making more plays. This will make the whole defense more effective.

    Unfortunately they may have to be if the offense has too many three and outs.


  3. If you dream a little bit, you can envision a scenario where all three levels of the defense are average (although not much more than that). I think the secondary will probably be the defense’s top unit and still have serious concerns about the linebackers. Overall, I think the defense will suffer from a lack of difference makers that attract extra attention and have to be gameplanned for. Without that star power, it takes a Belichickian level of discipline and cohesion to succeed with the non-name approach and I have yet to see that from a Narduzzi defense.


  4. There is depth, but not star power. If we just had that one guy to occupy 2 o-linemen the way Aaron Donald once did, we’d be all set. The entire success of the defense revolves around the play of the line. Pressure from the line requires less blitzing. Pressure also creates turnovers on the back side. To me, turnovers are often the difference between a good defense and a great one. Our defense has not produced enough turnovers overall under HCPN. One other general observation about our recent defenses: they don’t hit very hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check out the replay of the Miami game last year .For a team that you say didn’t hit very hard the Hurricanes had four or five go down with injuries.


  5. Very true. Pitts D needs to make turnovers, hit hard and the line needs to pressure the QB. I don’t really see those things happening this year.
    And the D could tire if the offense can’t move the ball. I’m actually more concerned about the offense. But neither are very good unless certain players become game changers. Need 3-4 elites on each side. I don’t think Pitt has any. Gonna be a long year I think.


  6. Not upset that there seems to be a sort of consensus concerning the weaknesses of the PITT football team this coming year. Low expectations are fine and all so I wouldn’t expect to read much about many being disappointed after a season of low expectations….. but that’s not how it works. My thoughts are scattered on the final record and all but I do expect to see many encouraging signs this year while still looking at the coaching staff with more of a critical eye then previous years.


  7. Very nice write up Reed.

    I think the d hadn’t usually hit hard because they still had to think about their assignments. Hoping this year they know it well enough to play fast without thinking.

    Optomistic about the D line for some reason this comming year.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. —So is Shane Roy the new Avonte Maddox?? 🙂

    —D-Line, as a unit, could make a nice leap forward this season. Lots of bodies who have now been around a couple of years.

    —Biggest Coach Duzz recruiting disappointment to me has been the lack of a stud DE. We’ve missed on many. Weaver, Hendrix, Jones, Alexandre, or someone else, stepping up would be huge for the team.

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think you can discount experience. The D-linemen and linebackers will be much improved this year. Will it be enough? Time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. They’re problem was being young and thinking instead of just flowing. They have that year under their belt. The will play much faster with their reactions.

    I dont know how there can be so much disbelief that these young players can be better than they were. A lot of these players on defense wete being recruited by some major programs. These pkayers are not chop liver. There were mostly young and inexperience. So I guess Jackson and Ford are not impact player now.

    All this offseason speculation will be answered in September. Then we will all now. Right now there is no way possible for any of us to know what the team will do. Players do grow and become better. But it appears like most here dont think there are any good players on the team.

    The defense played much better later in the season. I look for them to take another step.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Right on Felix, a major part of the problem up front was their inexperience created hesitation and as a result slow reaction. I expect you’ll see the Pitt defense playing much faster and thus creating many more turnovers and 3 and outs against the opposition. And all you down beats worrying about our offense going 3 and out often will be sadly mistaken as you watch this years team challenge the production of our 2016 squad.


  11. Through the years D’s tend to earn a name because of their uniqueness. For example: “The No Name Defense” or “Blitzeburgh”.
    This years Pitt D may end up being known as the………
    “Question Mark (??????) D.” As in who knows how good or bad this D will be from game to game.


  12. This FB team personnel speculation reads a lot Lyke the recent basketball hire. Makes me want to sell my season tickets and watch from afar.

    I think I’ll turn on my wait and see perspective and play some golf in the mean time. September is not too far away – well five months to be exact. Maybe I’ll try to lose a few pounds while I wait…



  13. This defense learns to play as a cohesive unit in 2018. Stars will emerge. The Florida connection begins to pay dividends as well. The days of complaining about pathetic Pitt defenses is over.


  14. The Big Lead@thebiglead
    Under New Contract, Sean Miller Will Owe Arizona $1 Million If He’s Charged With a Crime Or Found Guilty Of an NCAA Violation http://bit.ly/2Jj0m0r

    Craig Meyer@CraigMeyerPG
    Former Pitt standout Jamel Artis, now a rookie with the Orlando Magic, notched new career highs tonight in points (16, on 6 of 10 shooting) and rebounds (6) in a 97-73 win against the Knicks.


  15. A really fair assessment by Reed IMO.

    We’ve had two DL studs this decade, Donald and Price … 3 if you count Sheard’s senior season of 2010. I’m thinking that this DL may not have a stud but could be the best as a unit. The 4 starters return plus Weaver, Wheeler, Twyman and Camp provides depth.

    Just how much they improve from last year remains to be seen.


  16. We also have to take in to account the 3 new coaches on defense. What impact will they have?


    1. This I believe is a concern when we start talking about how the kids will be playing better together after a year of experience and ‘being in the game flow’ instead of them having to think it out.

      You know they are getting different things on defense every time you have a new coordinator or even a new staff position coach… things change and with this coordinator it’s going to be different than what we had with Conklin

      He’s not going to keep the same exact nomenclature and he’s not going to keep the same play calling, so that’s going to set things back a little bit also.


  17. Chris Dokish@ChrisDokish
    11 hours ago

    What an amazing coincidence that Paris Johnson, Jr. ran into Aaron Donald today.


  18. Did anyone see the picture of AD and Paris standing next to each other? I couldn’t link it but it’s eye popping.

    Piggy backing off the last article. For all we know with the closed practices, PITT and Watson could be putting together a totally new offense out on the field. I doubt they are but isn’t that the point of closed sessions? To be mysterious.


  19. wwb…thanks for the link to Nunn’s nickname, “sewer rat”. best part was his mom tweeting “atta boy” in response. I already like the kid. Duzz referred to him as a “dirtbag” haha.
    Erie, if you sell your tickets and watch from afar I hope you still will come to the tailgates…we’d miss ya.


  20. D line may be so-so this year but at least they have enough guys to keep rotating until somebody shows up during a game…if they do it by committee, that’s fine with me. Same for the rest of the D — just keep giving new guys chances and see who is a gamer and who just looks good during warm ups.


  21. Hey Missing. Or whatever name you go by. Your comment that Pitt ‘doesn’t hit’ is BS and makes no sense. The Clemson, PSU, Miami games were harder hitting than the typical Steeler game. They were jacking folks up.

    I know I see things a bit optimistic. Perhaps too much. But I think this defense will be very good. Got rid of a not on the mark scheme. And DC. Narduzzi has learned a few things.

    New DC coach with experienced players will make a difference.


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